Weak Internal Control Systems as Doorway to Corruption

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Ibrahim Magu

Uche Uwaleke
The disturbing revelations emanating from the current trial of Ibrahim Magu, the former acting Chairman of the EFCC, speak volumes about the weak internal control system in an agency established to fight financial and money laundering crimes in the country.

Internal control system is simply the system of controls put in place by the management of an organisation to safeguard its assets and ensure it is run in an efficient and effective manner.

A key element of internal control system is segregation of duties such that no one individual initiates and executes a transaction to the end regardless of the position in the organisation.
If this were in place in EFCC, then Magu would not allegedly get the opportunity to initiate recoveries, receive the money and decide where such money is kept.

Strong internal control system would have placed the responsibility to receive such money in another official while yet another or better still, a committee decides the bank for the lodgment of the funds.
Another official/department, not being a part of the Committee, is then saddled with the task of monitoring the funds and regularly reporting on movements in such accounts.

The mind-boggling allegations against Magu leaves one with the conclusion that the system of Internal control in EFCC is weak in all its ramifications. Compliance to a system of internal check and adequate accounting and reporting procedures would have saved the country the embarrassment of having the anti-corruption czar standing trial for corruption.

It will be recalled that Ibrahim Magu was appointed in 2015 as acting Chairman of the EFCC. That the alleged infractions and sharp practices are being made manifest five years after points to failure of internal control system.
If it were not so, the system would have automatically thrown up the discrepancies between recoveries reported in its financial records and the amount lodged in the bank to the tune of over N39 billion according to newspaper reports. It would also have been difficult for interest on bank deposits to develop wings since regular monitoring and bank reconciliations would have been entrenched.

Essentially, Magu’s case brings to the fore the need for the government to place more premium on strengthening institutions as no individual is indispensable when it comes to the fight against all forms of corruption.
As part of the required measures, the government should move with speed and get the new acting chairman to overhaul the internal control department of EFCC by reposting all the staff and engaging a reputable accounting/consulting firm to deploy some of its staff on secondment to EFCC.

This consulting firm will be responsible to employ new set of staff that will undergo training under the firm’s staff on secondment for at least one year in the first instance.

It may also have to upgrade associated IT infrastructure for effective control system.
In addition, the Supervising Ministry of Justice should be required to engage a separate firm of external auditors to be carrying out continuous (as opposed to periodic) audit on the accounts of EFCC.

Continuous external audit is equally recommended for ICPC, CCB and all anti graft agencies in Nigeria.
As studies have shown, the application of strong internal control system coupled with continuous external audit is the panacea to the high level of corruption in public sector organisations.
*Uwaleke is a Professor of capital market at the Nasarawa State University Keffi and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria